LEVEL DESIGN PORTFOLIO
Lead Level Designer
3D Vertical Platformer
41 (10 level designers)
Feb 2020 - May 2021
3 Months (~64 hours)
Discord, Trello, GitHub, Google Docs
"Project Eclipse is a pc game that takes the player through a malfunctioning spaceship in search of the escape pod in order to survive. Over a series of three levels, the player must search for any living crew members, avoid extra terrestrials, and locate all access cards to open the doors necessary in order to get to the escape pod (4th level)."
- developed top downs and blockouts
- designed and implemented level 1
- added gameplay and/or conveyance to levels 1, 2, and 3
added lighting and vfx to all levels
created credits screens
researched and implemented music into all levels
collaborated with virtual team members
logged tasks on Trello
co-edited documentation on Google Docs
Served as Level Design Lead
Images & Involvement
I designed level 1 and implemented everything into the level from asset packs. When assets that I wanted weren't available, I created new items by grouping together existing assets. The hydroponics system is one of those creations, designed to lead the player's eyes to the corner of the room where a necessary pickup cold be found.
In another area of level 1, I created cryo tanks by combining BSP with objects and materials in asset packs. By experimenting with lighting and particle systems, I was able to create a mysterious space for the player to discover an accessible air duct to crawl through.
As the player emerges from the air ducts, they find them selves in a laboratory of sorts. In this space, I tried to create narrative context by depicting the suffering of an alien race by the ship's inhabitants. I also created the specimen tubes in similar manner as the cryo tanks.
I created this storage area for the player to discover a secret area behind the barrels where they could find an energy booster. I conveyed this by angling a barrel on the ground and leaving a place on the platform where the barrel once existed, and added lighting and animated particles to grab the player's attention.
One of the hallways leads to the next level upon unlocking the main door; I included a second hallway that ended at a door with blocked access due to ship damage. The door's access card is located on the second floor accessible only by dropping down through the ceiling where the player crawls through air ducts after figuring out how to climb up to the opening.
Before I blocked out level 1, I created a series of top downs sketches. I started with a basic floor plan and then refined that floor plan a few times creating gameplay elements. Iterations were made to adapt to game design changes from open world to linear.
After I had a solid top down design, I began to blockout the general spaces that I wanted to have in my level. This helped me to understand dimensions, figure out what assets I would need, and decide if my design was going to be fun.
What I Learned
I learned a ton from this project. I learned what's involved in being a lead on a game project and how that differed from being a lead in my prior career. I noted everything I would do differently from the start if I was given that opportunity again, but planning, organization, meetings, and playtesting are top takeaways.
Probably one of the key things I learned was that you have to research what you don't know, and you have to take control of your learning and career. I did not waste time in this course. I knew very little about level design when this project started, but I spent every evening after working my full-time day job soaking up every article and video I could find on my own. I started blocking out my level only after I knew some of the basic design theories involved, and that was after I made 5 top downs first. I was so new, that I didn't know what a block out was, or that meshes were different from BSPs, or what exactly a level designer was exactly.
I learned everything this term, and I learned it because I applied myself and spent every waking minute outside of work and class, learning on my own. My first level ever (pictured above) may not have the grandest conveyance or the most beautiful lighting and set dressing, and meshes may be floating or impaling walls, but I can assure you that I aligned the BSP on a grid, learned to group BSP and static meshes together to create interesting variety and clutter, and learned how to navigate the engine like a pro. I learned all of it through countless tutorials and articles, and through sheer hours of practice.
The result? I ended up becoming one of the most effective designers in this course and became level design lead. My level was nicknamed "Flex City" by my instructor. In that process, I learned how to scope down a project, work with other leads to make game changing decisions, and manage people on a game development team. I learned some hard lessons about what not to do as well; takeaways for next time.
All of this effort paid off in the end as I used this project as my portfolio piece to get into SMU Guildhall. I am still soaking up all of the level design knowledge I can, and practicing for hours every day to become a great designer.
Overall, I learned to make and do great things and not just do the bare minimum. I learned to seek out, learn, and do what others don't make the time to do. Then, when I got to Guildhall, I shared any knowledge and experience I could with my classmates as we made a new game project together, as it was the first for many of them as well.